Ahead of a landmark tour of Australia, India captain Virat Kohli has started the mind games early.
The fiery India captain said his team will have no need for sledging in the upcoming tour, which will include four Tests, and a handful of T20 and ODI matches.
Despite the recent cultural shake-up of the Australian cricket team, Kohli is still expecting his opponents to fire off plenty of on-field barbs, saying his team will be ready to fight fire with fire.
“When it comes to getting engaged in an argument on the field, or in a fight as people want to call it excitedly, I have been completely OK playing without an altercation,” Kohli said.
“I have enough belief in my ability to play without a reason to pump myself up.
“Those were very immature things that I needed to feed on in early days of my career, so that I can get pumped up.
“Now being captain of the team, you literally have no room for anything else but to think of what the team wants all the time.
“We were always the ones giving it back, we were never the ones starting anything.
“So as long as it doesn’t start we have no problem in just focusing on our game and just doing what we need to do and we don’t necessarily need to look out for something.
“(However) If they want to play a certain way we’ll reciprocate.”
Meanwhile, aside from a possible sledging battle, Kohli arrives in Australia with a clear focus.
It’s the final frontier for Indian cricket: a Test series win in Australia.
The Indians have never achieved that feat in 11 Test series – they’ve drawn three and lost eight.
But Kohli and his Indians arrive on Friday for the four-Test series, starting in Adelaide on December 6, knowing this is their best chance ever.
“It’s a great moment for Indian cricket, this is their best opportunity to beat Australia,” former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly said this week.
“But you also have to keep in mind that Australia in Australia are a different kettle of fish. Many feel that they are a weak outfit but I don’t think so.”
Many pundits, particularly Australians, disagree with Ganguly: the Indians will meet the weakest Australian side, arguably, in three decades.
Australian Test selectors are wondering who to put in; India are pondering who to leave out.
The Aussies appear no closer to finding dependable batsmen to plug the gaps left by suspensions for ball-tampering to Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft.
Which means Australia’s front-line bowlers – Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon – will be tasked with leading the home nation to a series victory.
That quartet is justifiably celebrated. But they’ll be bowling against an Indian batting line-up with riches galore, starting with Kohli.
The 30-year-old leads any discussion about the best current batsman and is returning to personally happy Australian hunting grounds – he’s made five tons in eight Test matches here.
But India didn’t win any of those eight Tests – losing 2-0 in a four-Test series in 2014-15 and suffering a 4-0 whitewash in 2011-12.
Kohli will undoubtedly inspire his teammates, who include seasoned campaigners in Australia and some precocious upstarts including opener Privthi Shaw.
Shaw, who turned 19 on November 8, made his Test debut in the two-game series last month against West Indies.
He won the man-of-the-series award, making 134 – becoming the youngest Indian to score a century on Test debut – followed by 70 and 33 to enhance his status as ‘the next Tendulkar’.
Shaw will likely open the batting with Lokesh Rahul, who averages 52.3 against Australia.
The comes classy first-drop Cheteshwar Pujara, looking to fill the one hole on his cricket curriculum vitae: success in Australia.
Pujara averages almost 50 overall and 55.05 against Australia – but just 33.5, without a Test century, in Australia.
Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane – who averages 57 in Tests in Australia – and newcomer Rishabh Pant follow.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Pant, aged 21, has only played five Tests so far but already has a ton and two half-centuries.
India’s Test team will also likely renowned spinners Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, who has 49 wickets against Australia at an average of just 18.02, and pacemen Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma.
AUSTRALIA V INDIA TEST HISTORY
* Played 96. Australia 41 wins 26 losses 1 tie 26 draws
* India’s overall record in Australia: 5 wins 28 losses 11 draws.
* India’s series record in Australia: 11 series 0 wins 3 draws
* Past five Test series:
Australia in India 2016-17: India 2-1 (best of 4)
India in Australia 2014-15: Australia 2-0 (4)
Australia in India 2012-13: India 4-0 (4)
India in Australia 2011-12: Australia 4-0 (4)
Australia in India 2010-11: India 2-0 (2)
First Test, Adelaide, Dec 6-10
Second Test, Perth, Dec 14-18
Third Test, Melbourne, from Dec 26-30
Fourth Test, Sydney, Jan 3-7